The last county we visited on our trip was Belgium. Personally, I was more excited about the chocolate than the beer, but of course I partook in both. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when it came to Belgium, but I'd heard my brother go on and on about how great the country was, so I was ready to explore.
While we were in Belgium, we stayed with family in a small village outside of Ghent, which meant we got to experience typical Belgium life. This of course included visiting the local pub. The place we visited was unassuming, but our cousin assured us that it was the best place for a drink. The bartender/owner was friendly and knowledgeable about his beer selection and even brought out a not-on-the-menu beer for Bryce to try. It was the perfect place to start our last week.
Belgium was full of delightful charms that I hadn’t anticipated. For one, their radio stations had the most random and beautiful music selection. One minute it was ABBA, then the next it was a song from Grease the musical, and finished off with a country love song sung in French. Pure music bliss. Another quirk was the fact that every house we visited had automated black out shutters. These were magical until they automatically opened at 7am. And finally, the house we stayed at had a group of chickens living next door. I never realized that I had not had the pleasure of being woken up at 3am by roosters crowing before. Now I can say I’ve successfully had that experience for an entire week.
But back to the beer.
We were lucky enough to visit three different breweries during our stay. The first was De Halve Maan in Bruges. This brewery is becoming famous quickly as it is the first brewery to install an underground pipeline that pumps beer from the brewery to the bottling facility.
The second brewery is a bit more famous. We took a side trip to Amsterdam and visited the Heineken Brewery. The actual tour part was short, and the rest was a surreal experience where we were able to explore the European hipster drinking scene, full of interactive displays and discotheque music. From this tour we quickly realized that Europeans are in two camps: one loves Heineken beer and the other loathes it and says it’s not beer, but just good marketing.
Our last brewery was a local place near the village we were staying in. We had a personalized tour at Van Steenberge Brewery and were able to see their newly expanded brewing facility and learn about their environmentally responsible kegs. This was one of the first breweries I had been to where they specifically touched on how they are trying to be environmentally friendly in their brewing.
Needless to say, we very much enjoyed our time in Belgium and will definitely be back again.
This is Part 2 of our series on beer in Europe. For part one, read Adventures in Norway!
When I think of Germany, I think of beer. I don’t really know when this started. Was it before I met Bryce? After? No idea, but that’s the way it is. Which means when I was planning our time in Munich, I knew there would be lots of beer related activities on our itinerary.
Now, I’m going to be honest here. Sometimes, I get tired of going to breweries. There, I said it. They all seem the same, the décor is sparse, and there isn’t always food (I really like food). But in Germany I very much enjoyed going to pubs and breweries and I think the reason is because everyone is incredibly proud of their beer. Like, really proud. And I love it when people are passionate about what they enjoy.
We went on a Bavarian Beer tour, visited several beer gardens, and spent time in countless pubs trying every beer we could get our hands on. They even had a German version of a summer shandy, better known as a radler.
German beer history is vast and very specific. You can find more information here about German beer styles such as Oktoberfest (also known as Marzen). I won’t bore you with the details. Instead, I’ll share some of our pictures with you.
We’ve been back from our European adventures for a few weeks now and I’m finally getting around to editing pictures and getting my thoughts organized.
Our first stop on our vacation was Norway. We began in Oslo and then took a train across the country to visit family in Bergen. Along the way we stopped overnight in a town called Flam, which had countless waterfalls, gorgeous views, excellent shopping, and…a brewery. Go figure.
Nestled among the fjords is Ægir Brew Pub. When you step foot inside you are instantly transported to a warm, welcoming pub that feels like Vikings could come through the door at any moment. The brewery had an impressive selection of beer. I like the lighter beers, so I tried a Boyla Blonde and Sorachi Kolsch. Bryce likes the darker ones, so he had a Rallar Amber Ale and Sommar Red Lager.
Full disclosure though--I did leave Bryce and the pub in order to do some souvenir shopping. He basked in the glory of not being on a train with a heavy backpack and 14 other family members, while I went nuts in the sweater section of the Mall of Norway (not to be confused with the Mall of America).
Once I finished shopping with a victory lap through the Christmas tree ornament display, I met up with Bryce and a few family members to continue sampling the finest beer Flam had to offer. I think one was infused with wild flowers. If not, it sure smelled like it was and, yes, it was delicious.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our vacation across Europe, where we post about the beer in Germany!